NXT offered up another edition of Takeover, this time with the second installment of War Games. The pay-per-view was simply put, excellent. Survivor Series is going to have its hands full trying to live up to the standard set by their "minor league system." And that's not just a maybe. I don't see how it possibly can.
The card opened with a short but to-the-point match, went onto a strong two-out-of-three falls match and then got into the meat of the show with three matches that all could be candidates for Match of the Year if they weren't on the same card. Even then, if the matches aren't voted, performances by the competitors for breakout stars of the year should be.
Needless to say, NXT's future is bright and by default, so is WWE's if they play their cards right. Here are the winners and losers for NXT Takeover: War Games II.
Loser: Kassius Ohno
This was an effective way to "debut" Matt Riddle on a Takeover event, but it came at the expense of Ohno who was knocked silly in a matter of seconds and flopped around the ring afterward for effect. If this leads to a more stable feud between the two, Ohno will have a chance to redeem himself but if it doesn't and this is where this battle ends, this will be remembered as the moment Ohno worked his way down the card in NXT and potentially out of the minds of the fans.
Great for Riddle, not great for Ohno. But, we've seen this kind of booking before so it's not a huge surprise the company went this route.
Winner: Kairi Sane versus Shayna Baszler
Considering this was their fifth and likely final battle, it was bound to be a classic. And, to that end, it was an excellent way to start the official card. The best news is, the finish sends the message this is not the last these two will see of each other. And, despite there having been five matches between the two, there aren't many who wouldn't be ready to see them go toe-to-toe again.
There was a time that Bayley versus Sasha Banks would be the female feud to end all feuds, but Baszler versus Sane is giving them a run for their money. This match had a little of everything including an appearance by the Horsewomen, a beautiful moonsault by Io Shirai and sneaky, but creative pinfalls. Did I say the moonsault from Shirai was a thing of beauty?
Winner: Velveteen Dream
Tell me Velveteen Dream isn't going to be the next big thing in NXT. He's a bonafide star who seems to do his best work when the lights are shining their brightest. And, his ability to weave different, yet subtle changes and adaptations to his character over time make it clear he's got the stuff to be a champion on the main roster as well. His Hogan stuff is pure entertainment.
For his part, Tommaso Ciampa was his usual fantastic self. One of the best heels in the business right now, he was the perfect opponent to help elevate Dream as he rises to the top of the promotion, all while keeping himself in the picture as one of NXT's best.
Winner: Johnny Gargano
Obviously Aleister Black is a winner because he'll move on as the victor but the real star of this match was Johnny Gargano, who in defeat, still rose his stock as one of the best workers in the industry. There's no one who can lose as Gargano does but still comes out a winner and better off than when he entered the match.
Gargano played the perfect heel trying to avoid everything Black could throw at him, then eventually working his way into a position of power.
Winner (10 Times Over): War Games
There's not much more that can be said about this match other than it was one of the most well-planned, fast-paced, incredibly-entertaining matches in years. Every member of the match got their moments of greatness in, they used all sorts of techniques and the lock on the cage before the final entry was a work of creative genius.
If WWE can have any match on Survivor Series come even close to the quality of the match that was put on at Takeover, everyone should be shocked. I can't recall the last time a match had so many high-quality elements including storytelling, violence, high-spots, and non-stop action. The hidden gem of the match was Hanson of the War Raiders. This match made him and his partner instant favorites.
I'll say it right now, Undisputed Era has the potential to be the best WWE faction in the last decade. They might not have won on this night, but they are nothing short of amazing.
I'd be totally ok with WWE just pushing Survivor Series aside and playing this match on loop for the six hours WWE is slated to air their event.